This is the property of the Daily Journal Corporation and fully protected by copyright. It is made available only to Daily Journal subscribers for personal or collaborative purposes and may not be distributed, reproduced, modified, stored or transferred without written permission. Please click "Reprint" to order presentation-ready copies to distribute to clients or use in commercial marketing materials or for permission to post on a website. and copyright (showing year of publication) at the bottom.

Legal Fakes

By Donna Mallard | Sep. 2, 2015

Law Office Management

Sep. 2, 2015

Legal Fakes

Emily Morris

Legal Fakes

Aperson claiming to be a law enforcement officer called numerous Northern California residents last year to say they owed fines because they or their relatives had missed jury duty. Some such schemes target particularly vulnerable people, but FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller says social media now enable crooks to read up on potential victims and accrue more credibility than in the past.

This made us think of a couple of fraudulent schemes that have targeted lawyers and clients over the years.


These usually come in the form of an email from someone asking for legal help collecting a debt. The lawyer then receives a cashier's check-purportedly the settlement from the debtor-and is asked to wire the money as soon as possible, not wait until the check clears. The checks, documents, and websites created to perpetuate these schemes can be very convincing, according to a State Bar ethics alert. The kicker: Attorneys bamboozled this way might face State Bar discipline if the transactions involve a trust account.


According to an FBI statement, a Florida man named Michael Nelson set up a fake law firm in Atlanta and Los Angeles after finding out that someone who shared his name belonged to the California State Bar. He hired attorneys and support staff and even managed to change the details of the California Nelson's State Bar profile. The imposter initially made off with at least $35,000 from Bay Area victims, but he was indicted in 2010 and eventually sentenced to 42 months in prison.


Donna Mallard

Daily Journal Staff Writer

For reprint rights:

Email for prices.
Direct dial: 949-702-5390

If you would like to purchase a copy of your Daily Journal photo, call (213) 229-5558.

Send a letter to the editor: